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Chair of Arizona Republican party resigns after leak reveals alleged bribe

In World
January 25, 2024

The leader of Arizona’s Republican party resigned on Wednesday after leaked audio of him surfaced, appearing to show him offering a bribe to the Republican candidate Kari Lake by asking if there were a dollar amount she would take to stay out of the US Senate race there.

Jeff DeWit, the chair of the state party, was captured in audio secretly recorded by Lake telling her “there are very powerful people who want to keep you out” of the Senate race and that “they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is, in a big way”.

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DeWit said that rather than fight to keep his job, he was stepping down because Lake’s team threatened to release more secret recordings unless he resigned: “I am resigning as Lake requested, in the hope that she will honor her commitment to cease her attacks.” (Lake’s team has denied this, saying no one on her campaign threatened or blackmailed DeWit.)

Lake, a Trump ally who has been campaigning for the former president, previously lost the race for governor to the Democratic candidate, Katie Hobbs, and is now running for the Senate against the Democrat Ruben Gallego and, possibly, the incumbent independent, Kyrsten Sinema.

In the audio, obtained by the Daily Mail, Lake objects to the idea that she can be “bought” and rejects any attempt at a bribe. DeWit repeatedly asks Lake not to tell anyone about the conversation.

“They should want me. I’m a great candidate, people love me. These people are corrupt,” Lake said in the leaked audio.

The secret recording fiasco highlights the schism among Arizona Republicans over the party’s direction during an election year in which Arizona will again be a close swing state. In recent years, the state party moved further to the right and embraced Trumpism at a time when the state itself moved more toward the center. Many Republicans there have continued to insist the 2020 election was stolen, a frequent refrain Lake has made on the campaign trail.

In a statement on Wednesday, DeWit called the audio “selectively edited” and a “deceptive tactic” and said that Lake was actually employed by his private company at the time the conversation took place 10 months ago, raising legal questions. Lake, a former television anchor, often wears a microphone to record footage that gets used to boost her brand online.

While Lake and her allies have cast DeWit’s comments as an attempt to bribe her, DeWit characterized the conversation as “offering a helpful perspective to someone I considered a friend”.

The party’s far right wanted DeWit out of his role before the audio was leaked, though the leak came out just before Trump was scheduled to return to Arizona for a visit later this week, followed by the state party’s annual meeting.

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